Of course we'd love to have the time every day to buy fresh, cook from scratch, and serve (and eat) gourmet meals. But reality has a way of wreaking havoc with good intentions! That's why we sometimes resort to serving frozen meals, something moms told us in a recent Motherboard poll that they thought they'd never do (driving a minivan was another). Instead of feeling bad about how some "nevers" have snuck into your busy life, try our tweaked versions that give you the shortcut without the guilt.
Take those frozen meals, for example. Many of today's versions are better for you than in the old TV dinner days. Look for the brands with the lowest sodium and add some frozen veggies to bulk up the green stuff. Or serve your family frozen tortellini or ravioli and add spaghetti sauce and a bag of frozen veggies, says Leslie Bonci, R.D., director of sports nutrition at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.
"Disorder comes with having kids," says Linda Samuels, a professional organizer in Westchester, New York. And that disorder includes toys. But having kids (and toys!) doesn't mean your traditional or modern living room has to be plastic central. Find a way to corral the chaos that works with the look and feel of your house. Store toys in that vintage armoire or stash the Legos in baskets behind the Herman Miller couch. Another option: create a toy closet, Samuels says. "The important thing is to make the storage low and accessible enough so that it's easy for the children to use," she says. If the kids can put the stuff away themselves, let them. The goal is to get the stuff out of sight, not alphabetize it!
While nobody's suggesting that you get out the bullhorn and holler at your child on a regular basis, there are times when it's okay to get loud, says Andrea Bonior, Ph.D., a licensed clinical psychologist in Washington, D.C. If your child is in danger or has done something that could cause harm, it may be an effective shortcut to raise your voice to get his attention, she says. "It's not okay if you're yelling because of your own personal stress, if you're screaming so harshly that it's cruel, or if your yelling has gotten so frequent that its' become completely ineffective," Bonior says.
Join the club! "I was always horrified by my mother's talk of girdles and control-top hose," says fashion expert Jordan Christy, author of How to Be a Hepburn in a Hilton World, who lives in Nashville, Tennessee. "But I've become completely addicted to my Spanx!" Instead of worrying about a few extra pounds, she says, consider some of today's shapewear, which is a lot more comfy than the old-fashioned kind. "If you're thinking about heading out in a wrap dress or pencil skirt, cconsider wearing Spanx," she says. "It will do wonders to make any lumps and bulges around your middle disappear."
A healthy relationship with the screen doesn't have to mean no TV at all, says Mollie Marti, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at the University of Iowa. In fact, while 30 minutes of TV gives you time to fix dinner, it may also have a positive influence on your children if you pick shows that help improve verbal and math skills, she says. "Avoid shows with violent content, including cartoons, and limit viewing time to no more than two hours a day," Marti says. "The best use of television: find educational programming that can help support your child's unique interests in history, sports, or adventure."
Just because you can't get to the salon as often as you used to, doesn't mean you're letting yourself go! When you stretch out time between visits, you simply need to pay a little extra attention to keep your hair looking great, says James Corbett, owner of the James Corbett Studio in New York City. One shortcut: "Use extra conditioner and natural oils, like jojoba, to coat the hair shaft," he says. "Then think styling." A simple updo can help hide a grown-out mane or split ends. "The trick is to look a little messy but fun," Corbet says.
No snacking may be a good intention, but it's not necessarily what's good for that mid-afternoon energy slump. "The key to snacking is balance," says Katie Cavuto Boyle, M.S., R.D., owner of Healthy Bites in Philadelphia, which offers nutrition assistance to customers. "Energizing carbs with satiating proteins is the best way to go," she says. One good shortcut: keep trail mix, granola, and dried fruits in your desk. Cereal or rice cakes with peanut butter also will give you a boost.
Why is it that little kids who don't have homework like to pretend that they do, and big kids who have it, don't want to do it? Such is life! But there is a way to prevent homework squabbles, says Randy L. Cale, Ph.D., a licensed psychologist in New York who runs HomeworkHabitsMadeEasy.com: simply establish after-school house rules. Even little kids can understand "work then play," he says. "Children soon discover that it's their playtime they're wasting if they don't get their work done." To make this really work, keep all goodies—like toys, TV, computer, video, friends, and cell phones—off limits when the kids come home, he says. "You won't need to nag again!"
Blowing off a little steam by complaining about your spouse is understandable, but if you're going to to do it "pick someone who doesn't know him," says Tina Tessina, Ph.D., a psychotherapist in Long Beach, California and author of Money, Sex and Kids: Stop Fighting about the Three Things That Can Ruin Your Marriage. Make a pact with the person that you'll have your little gripe session but whatever you say won't be taken too seriously and will never be repeated, she says. Once you're done venting, consider this, says Tessina: "Anger is a force that energizes us for change." Instead of just whining, she says, figure out how you can change something about yourself or your relationship with your husband that will lessen the need for complaining!